Here’s why designers need to think more intelligently about promoting movement for the millennial end-user.
November 17th, 2017
The poor things have been labelled everything from self-obsessed to idle. For years, they’ve stood accused of being entitled, requiring endless hand-holding and spoon-feeding and, according to one recent caustic obliteration in the New York Times, “the worst kind of slacktivism”.
They’re the millennial generation – those generally thought to be born after 1980 (although, even that is up for debate) – and they currently dominate the majority of the modern workforce. They will continue to do so in the fifty years yet to come.
Well, for one thing, the millennial generation is the largest in global history. Now in its prime working and spending years, the generation’s impact on the global economy is expected to be so far-reaching that the flurry of anticipation has spawned entirely new economic, social and political phenomena: the ‘sharing economy’, the ‘insurgent economy’, the ‘society of digital natives’. Considering the sheer number of massive upheavals this generation has had to weather (or, indeed, ‘whither’) – the War on Terror, 9/11, Brexit, and so on – it’s perhaps little wonder that the millennial generation refuses to disengage from the never-ending stream of news fed through social media channels.
After all, in a recent study conducted by Goldman Sachs, the reluctance of millennials to marry, stay put, or even purchase large-ticket items (automotives, property, significant investments) all have a direct correlation to the generation’s overwhelming sense of their impermanence. Perhaps the War on Terror will never end, perhaps safety is not guaranteed, perhaps housing markets will crash (…again), perhaps the global economy will fall apart (…also again). Remaining digitally engaged via any number of apps, social media platforms and live news updates begins to seem no longer obsessional but, rather, more like a survival tactic.
Irrespective of motive, however, it is undeniable that the generation touted to rule the world is also a generation that cannot remember that world without the Internet. In fact, the dependence is so strong that BizTech magazine recently reported almost half of surveyed millennials would rather lose their sense of smell over an item of technology with internet access. What is remarkable, however, is that the study also proved that one out of every three surveyed individuals would prioritise social media freedom, device flexibility and work mobility over their paycheque.
Open any corporate magazine and you will be assaulted by reports that the millennial workforce is the key mover-and-shaker driving revolutions in business culture, communication and operations. Whether it’s their unique career aspiration models, the millennial attitude toward work, their knowledge and skills-base of new technologies or their lifelong project of networking – and, let’s face it, millennials are master networkers – millennials are actively changing the experience, appearance and substance of the commercial sector en masse. As this sector remains one of the most active for contemporary designers and architects, the millennial revolution continues to present us all with unique design challenges.
Although Goldman Sachs’ landmark study investigated everything as broad and diverse as millennial spending habits, their attitude toward home environments, and even the likelihood of marriage and children, by far the most surprising data surrounded millennial attitudes toward health and technology – increasingly important factors in the design schemes of commercial environments.
“For millennials,” according to Goldman Sachs, “wellness is a daily, active pursuit. Their active lifestyle influences trends in everything from food and drink to fashion.” As a generation, millennials comparatively spend more than 20 per cent of their annual income on athletic goods, memberships and other fitness related consumables, in contradistinction to their Generation X and Baby Boomer counterparts. They also spend more than 22 per cent more time engaging in active exercise and fitness activities – all categorically suggesting that millennials, being far from ‘lazy’ or ‘indolent’, are in fact the most active and health-conscious generation in history.
“For millennials, wellness is a daily, active pursuit. They’re exercising more, eating smarter and smoking less than previous generations. They’re using apps to track training data, and online information to find the healthiest foods. And this is one space where they’re willing to spend money on compelling brands.” – Goldman Sachs.
And yet, given this staggering data related to fitness, surveyed millennials also remain concerned about the deleterious effects of their otherwise largely sedentary lifestyle. Constantly engaged with their devices – smartphones, tablets and desktop computers – there is significant indication to suggest that for periods of time between active exercise (ie., those periods of time normally allotted to work) millennials seek to engage in more consistent movement. As the most health-conscious generation in global history, and the generation primed to hold the most decision-making power in the years immediately ahead, data overwhelming points to the fact that millennials not only require but, in fact, vigorously demand more flexible working situations. As a result, the A+D world is becoming more and more involved in conceiving design schemes in the commercial sector to promote greater empowering and wellness-driven behaviours throughout the working day.
At a recent TedTalk, workplace expert Nilofer Merchant shared insights into how these trending demands are revolutionising workplace design and operations. Suggesting that while heretofore employer-subsidised health and fitness programs were geared toward direct health goals (especially weight loss), Merchant’s findings suggest that the millennial workforce seeks health as an ongoing journey – one delivered solely through intelligent and user-centred design.
Controversially dubbed ‘the new smoking’ in 2016 by The Huffington Post, sitting is a central part of the contemporary workday. More than ever due to the millennial dependence on integrated technology in every aspect of our working and personal lives, the majority of today’s office workers are spending their days hunched over a computer keyboard, basking in the warm glow of their computer screens or contorted into all sorts of weird shapes trying to work from tiny tablets, phones or even ultra-high-tech smart whiteboards. This is, of course, not conducive to adhering to the “20.8.2” rule of sitting for 20 minutes per every half hour of work, standing for 8 minutes, and moving for at least 2 minutes. But how can we achieve “20.8.2” in today’s office, where 8 minutes standing away from your desk can mean the difference between making a deadline and missing it?
Krost’s range of purpose-built office furniture targets this conundrum of the millennial revolution, and makes getting your minutes of mobility a breeze. A departure from rickety desk chairs that leave you with a stiff back and the wheels of which seem to have a mind of their own, their Jena rocking chair is a stylish solution to break up otherwise sedentary work behaviours. A moulded polypropylene shell perches atop a tubular chrome frame or solid wooden beech rocking option and is draped in a light grey or charcoal plush cushion that is as chic as it is comfortable. Suitable for strictly task-specified or fluid breakout areas alike, Jena suddenly makes sitting an enticing concept, allowing always for the 20.8.2 rule to be imbued throughout your workday habits.
For those looking for even more flexibility, Krost’s Lift S workstation allows users to adjust desktop height at the touch of a button. Featuring a white powder coated steel frame and melamine worktop, the adjustable and ergonomic workstation can be configured to heights between 640mm and 1240mm. Lift S provides an increasingly important addition to design schemes that need to deliver on the millennial desire for furnishings that adapt well to a suite of technological devices, behaviours and ultimately agile working habits.
To make sure that such devices move with their user, Krost’s Tonic monitor platform transforms any fixed height workstation into a height adjustable one – perfect for any number of desk-sharing scenarios, or those workplaces that need to accommodate a rotating schedule of mobile workers. This retrofit addition allows end-users to switch between sitting and standing work positions in a matter of seconds. Two easy-access levers on the side of the platform activate a gas lift mechanism to smoothly bring screens to the perfect height.
In today’s offices, this kind of flexibility is more coveted than ever. The millennial workforce’s myriad of agile working activities and insatiable appetite for innovation means that responsive design is taking centre stage in commercial product specification.
Krost’s Balance stool speaks to this desire for customisation, offering users extreme, responsive flexibility. The conversation piece features an upholstered seat atop a telescoping stem that flexes to follow a user’s every move. Anchored by a self-balancing base that grips the floor with an elastomer sole, Balance offers a range of movement – and core engagement! – unseen in other task seating systems.
Prefer to keep your feet planted firmly on the floor? No problem. Responsive design informs a host of other Krost products, from the solid, easily manoeuvred Flip table to the playful curves of the aptly named Play modular sofa and angles of Twist, a more casual modular seating solution. Designed to adapt to teams that expand and contract with flexible work arrangements, both sofas tackle the one-on-one catch-up and Friday night office drinks with ease, and pair perfectly with the Gogo Ottomans, which can also be used as coffee tables.
With all the socialising and team meetings that go on in today’s open plan office, the need for spaces that deliver privacy, quiet, and focus is pressing: a response to the millennial desire for greater work/life balance, and a more social aspect to the otherwise traditional professional environment. Thankfully Krost has the perfect solution for this, too, by way of partitions and screens that can be moved to suit any spatial need. Ideal for separating work areas from informal meeting spaces and buzzing break out zones, Scape screens can be used individually or zipped together to form continuous partitions. The contemporary screens allow visual and acoustic privacy, and can help reduce the reverberation of noise with an open space.
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